News stories and advertisements might have you convinced that a daily glass of red wine is good for your health and your heart. But doctors, scientists and researchers are still debating whether the benefits outweigh the risks.
We created this page to give you the whole story about the possible benefits and the potential risks because you are not likely to get the whole story when you read the news.
What Are the Health Benefits of Red Wine?
The health benefits of regular consumption of moderate amounts of red wine may be numerous. Many studies have shown a lower incidence of heart disease among moderate drinkers. Some studies suggest that regular, moderate consumption may reduce the risk of certain kinds of cancer as well and at least one study has looked at how drinking may help to prevent a variety of age-related eye diseases.
The benefits are due to the antioxidants, polyphenols and other compounds present in red wine. One of the antioxidants, resveratrol, has received a lot of press. Entire segments of TV news shows have been devoted to how resveratrol could benefit your health.
Antioxidants of all kinds help to prevent oxidation of fats in the bloodstream. At a very early age, cholesterol and other fats start to build up in the interior of the blood vessel walls creating fatty streaks. If the fats in these streaks become oxidized, they will harden and become plaques.
Resveratrol and other antioxidants in red wine could help to prevent the oxidation by neutralizing free radicals in the bloodstream.
Resveratrol also has natural anti-inflammatory activity. If plaques do form, they trigger the immune system to cause increased production of inflammatory particles. White blood cells are sent to the site, even though there is no infection. The body’s immune system does not understand what the plaques are. It treats them as though they were a source of infection. The white blood cells and inflammatory particles serve no good purpose. They end up causing swelling in the walls of the vessels.
Resveratrol, because of its anti-inflammatory properties may prevent the inflammation and the swelling. Polyphenols also have natural anti-inflammatory activity.
Researchers also say that “red wine improves blood lipids”. Lipids are fat in the bloodstream. Most people are familiar with the term “high cholesterol”, which is actually an over-simplification. Total blood lipids include various kinds of cholesterol and fatty acids, as well as their transport mechanisms. The good transport mechanism is HDL. The bad one is LDL.
HDL carries fats away from the bloodstream. LDL carries fat to the heart and blood vessel walls, increasing the fatty streaks and increasing the risk of plaque formation. Red wine consumption has been shown to raise HDL and lower LDL. The blood lipid benefit is believed to be due to the total polyphenol content.
Alcohol, be it red wine, white wine, beer or anything else, has some beneficial effects of its own. In moderate quantities, it lowers blood pressure, relaxes smooth muscles, acts as a natural sleep aid and also as a natural pain reliever. Alcoho lalso has some positive effects on bone-building processes, as well. Some studies suggest that moderate consumption may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Just remember that moderation is the key.
Are There Any Risks of Wine Consumption?
The risks are related solely to the alcohol and primarily to excessive consumption. Some people should not drink any alcohol, including people with liver disease. People with type II diabetes must be very cautious and are typically encouraged to avoid alcohol consumption all together.
Whereas one drink lowers blood pressure, additional drinks can cause blood pressure to rise. If you have high blood pressure, you must be sure to drink only in moderation. Research has shown that a daily glass of red wine (100 milliliters for women or 200 milliliters for men) does not have lasting effects on blood pressure or heart rate. In fact, the study showed no noticeable benefits or adverse effects after 20 weeks of daily consumption. But excessive alcohol consumption is known to cause high blood pressure. The symptoms of a hangover are partly due to an increase in blood pressure.
Alcohol is a source of quickly absorbed calories. All of the calories pass through the walls of the stomach. No work is required by the digestive system to absorb the calories. In excess quantities, alcohol can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of type II diabetes and potentially leading to the production of advanced glycation end-products, molecules that play a role in cancer and aging, as well as heart disease. Alcohol is known to damage the liver over time. The damaging effects can lead to excess production of LDL cholesterol, the bad kind described above.
The bone-building benefit seen with moderate consumption may be reversed when consumption is excessive due to an increased risk of falls and fractures, especially among people with osteoporosis and among the elderly population. This is believed to be due to the effect that alcohol has on balance. An elderly person consuming alcohol would be more likely to suffer from loss of balance, leading to a potentially life-threatening fall.
There is also the potential for abuse whenever alcohol is consumed. People develop a tolerance for alcohol’s pleasant effects. After a while, one drink may not be enough to cause the good feelings. People often want to consume more as a result and that’s one of the reasons that few doctors will recommend even moderate consumption for their patients.
The risks of excessive intake obviously outweigh the benefits of moderate consumption. This is why moderation should be emphasized whenever anyone talks about red wine being good for you. But the popular press does not put the emphasis on moderation. It might not be as “newsworthy”.
What’s the Bottom Line on Red Wine and Heart Health?
Luckily, you can get the benefits of red wine without the risks of alcohol consumption. Resveratrol and polyphenols can be found in multi-nutritional supplements. A good heart-healthy supplement may also include nutrients that provide the benefits related to moderate alcohol consumption, such as lower blood pressure, muscle relaxation and natural sleep improvement.
When you can get the benefits without the risks, it’s a win-win situation. Take the time to read some of the other pages on this site and learn more about the great dietary supplements on today’s market.